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Interview With New York University Professor Of Journalism Jay Rosen; Interview With Republican Accountability Project Executive Director And He Focus Group Podcast Host Sarah Longwell; Interview With Singer iLe; Interview With Geopolitical Analyst And Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Jamie Metzl. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 10, 2023 - 13:00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We are always going to stand up for the rights of our citizens who were wrongfully detained.


HOLMES: The world reacts to Christiane's stunning conversation with imprisoned U.S. citizen, Siamak Namazi, from inside Iran's notorious Evin


And exposing the truth behind the lies of political and media implications with the damning lawsuit against Fox News.

Also, ahead, why the COVID lab leak theory shouldn't be dismissed.


JAMIE METZL, GEOPOLITICAL ANALYST AND ATLANTIC COUNCIL SENIOR FELLOW: Understanding what went wrong must be the foundation of our efforts to

shore up our vulnerabilities.


HOLMES: Hari Sreenivasan speaks to former U.S. government insider Jamie Metzl about the different theories on the origins of the outbreak.

Plus --




HOLMES: From feminism to Puerto Rican politics, my conversation with Grammy award winning singer iLe.

Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Michael Holmes in Atlanta sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Well, it was an interview like nobody's ever seen, an American detained in Iran telephoning this program from prison, desperately pleading to

President Biden to get him out. Siamak Namazi has been locked up for more than seven years, on charges of collaborating with an enemy state. Namazi

says, it is a sham, and calls himself a hostage.

He's growing increasingly desperate by the day. So much so, he made the bold decision to call out and speak to Christiane. Namazi was clearly

emotional, admittedly nervous, pleading for the release of not just him, but the two other Americans behind bars in Iran as well.

The unprecedented phone call got the attention of the highest levels of the U.S. government, which will get to in a bit. But, first, a reminder of the

extraordinary conversation.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Siamak Namazi, it's a rare, rare thing to hear from somebody inside Evin Prison. Can I start by

asking you to stay your name and where you are actually talking to us from?

SIAMAK NAMAZI, PRISONER, EVIN PRISON: Well, my name is Siamak Namazi, and this call is being made from ward four of Evin Prison in Tehran.

AMANPOUR: Siamak, it's a long. Long time since we last spoke, when we met in Iran. And I want to say that this is very, very unusual to speak to

somebody inside Evin Prison. Why are you speaking to us in this way? Why are you speaking out now?

NAMAZI: Well, Christiane, first, it's good to hear your voice as well after so many years, directly and not under on a recording that someone's

playing back to me. I think the very fact that I've chosen to take this risk and appear on CNN from Evin Prison, it should just tell you how dire

my situation has become by this point.

I've been a hostage for seven and a half years now. That's six times the duration of the hostage crisis. I keep getting told that I'm going to be

rescued and deals fall apart where I get left abandoned. Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us

out, to finally hear our cry for help and bring us home. And I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures.

So, this is a desperate measure. I'm clearly nervous. And just like it's hard for you, it's very intimidating for me to do this. I feel I need to be

heard. I don't know how long I have to wait until the White House understands that we need action and not just to be told that bringing us

out is a priority.


AMANPOUR: Siamak, we will get your message out to the world. And thank you for being so brave as to talk to us at this time.

NAMAZI: I would really appreciate it if I can also -- if I could also get a chance to address the president directly.

AMANPOUR: Go ahead.

NAMAZI: Honestly, I really need to be heard. If this -- I'm taking this risk for this opportunity. So, I hope you give it to me.

AMANPOUR: Go ahead, Siamak.

NAMAZI: OK. President Biden, I certainly hear and I sincerely appreciate your administration's repeated declarations about freeing the American

hostages in Iran is its top priority. But I remain deeply worried that the White House just does not appreciate how dire our situation has become.

It's also very hurtful and upsetting that after 25 months in office, you have not found the time to meet with our family.

If just give them some words of assurance. Sir, Morad, Emad, and I, have now collectively languished here for 18 years. Our lives and families have

been utterly devastated. We desperately, desperately need you to finally conclude that we've suffered long enough as Iran's hostages.

President Biden, you and you alone have the power to deliver on the Obama administration's broken promise to my family. I implore you, sir, to put

the lives and liberty of innocent Americans above all the politics involved and to just do what's necessary to end this nightmare and bring us home.

Thank you.


HOLMES: Now, the Iranian government still hasn't responded to our request for comment, and as for the U.S. government, they say, Iran's unjust

imprisonment of U.S. citizens is an outrageous and inhumane act. State Department Spokesman, Ned Price, was asked about the call, here's what he



NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We have made very clear to the regime, since the earliest days of this administration, the priority we

attach to seeing the prompt release of those Americans who are detained wrongfully. We are always going to stand up for the rights of our citizens

who are wrongfully detained, and that, of course, includes Siamak Namazi.

Senior officials from this building, as well as the White House, meet and consult regularly with the Namazi family, and will continue to do so until

this wrongful and unacceptable detention comes to an end.


HOLMES: Namazi's lawyer is challenging that last part, writing on Twitter, quoting here, "Contrary to its statement, the Namazi family have not been

given the opportunity to meet and consult regularly with senior officials or any officials from the White House. There has been a single meeting with

the NSA's Jake Sullivan."

The Namazi family has endured a lot, obviously, in the last several years. Siamak's father, Baquer, also was detained and barred from leaving Iran

until last October, when he was let go on medical grounds. Siamak's father and brother spoke out yesterday after the interview aired.


BAQUER NAMAZI, FATHER OF SIAMAK NAMAZI: I could not be more proud of his courage, but I don't want him to have to be brave anymore. I want him to be

safe. I want him to be free. To live life he should have been living for the past seven years. I want him to be home.


HOLMES: And you can watch Christiane's full conversation with Siamak Namazi online and tune in next week when Christiane returns for continuing

coverage of this extraordinary moment.

OK. We turn now to a bombshell lawsuit that exposes some shocking facts about the inner workings of one of America's biggest media organizations.

Dominion Voting Systems says Fox News Corporation is seeking a first amendment license to knowingly spread lies. In a new court filing, the

company claims, Fox has admitted that it's on-air statements about Dominion rigging the 2020 election were false, and that is just the tip of the

iceberg. A slew of private messages reveal what host Tucker Carlson really thinks about Donald Trump.

Correspondent Paula Reid with more.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): This is the Tucker Carlson America sees on camera.

TUCKER CARLSON, Fox NEWS HOST: The outcome of our presidential election was seized from the hands of voters --

REID (voiceover): But new court documents revealing a very different Carlson behind the scenes.


Texting a producer on January 4th 2021, just two days before the Capitol attack, saying of Trump, I hate him. Passionately. I can't handle much more

of this. We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. Admitting what a disaster it's been is too tough to digest, but come on,

there isn't an upside to Trump.

Those private remarks a total contrast of Carlson's public comments. Like these at a conservative event just a few months ago.

CARLSON: I actually love Donald Trump as a guy. I'm so grateful that Donald Trump ran in 2016. Donald Trump, like -- Donald Trump, completely

changed my view of everything.

REID (voiceover): His private messages were released as part of Dominion Voting Systems $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the right-wing

network, revealing that Fox News stars and top executives did not actually believe the lie they put on air that the 2020 election was stolen. But amid

falling ratings, the network continued to promote Trump and his lies.

CARLSON: Voter fraud is something that is real, that just took place two weeks ago.

What happened was, the people in charge rigged the game.

REID (voiceover): Despite his prior personal objections to Trump, Carlson continues to support him publicly. Defending him after a search warrant was

executed at Mar-a-Lago.

CARLSON: No honest person could believe that the raid on Donald Trump's home last week was a legitimate act of law enforcement. It was.

REID (voiceover): And seen her laughing with Trump at a golf tournament over the summer.


HOLMES: Paul Reid reporting there for us.

Now, the lawsuit reveals the shocking contradiction between Fox's on-air statements and the private conversations, some of which you just heard. So,

what are the media and political implications of all of this? I'm joined now by journalism professor, Jay Rosen, and former Republican Strategist,

Sarah Longwell.

I appreciate you both being with us. Professor Rosen, Dominion claims that, "Fox endorsed repeated and broadcast a series of verifiably false yet

devastating lies about Dominion." Now, given first amendment protections and the high bar of proving actual malice, knowledge of broadcasting false

information, it's not easy to sue a media company and win in the United States. But are these documents, those texts and so on, a smoking gun?

JAY ROSEN, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, they contain many smoking guns. And most first amendment experts in the U.S.

think Dominion has a very good chance of winning, not just because of the shocking content of the texts and e-mails that show Fox knew claims of a --

of stolen election were fraudulent. But also because of the heavy involvement of the leadership of Fox in this kind of lying.

And again and again, the evidence being produced by Dominion in this court case shows that the leaders, the most powerful people at Fox were aware of

what was going on. They were afraid of the audience. They knew that some of the crazier lawyers and representatives of Trump were wrong in what they

were saying, and yet they aired it again and again.

And you just don't see this collection of facts very often in first amendment law, which is why many people think that Dominion has a very good

chance of prevailing. What we don't know though is, will Dominion simply try and bargain for more money or will it try to get seriously important

admissions from Fox, pledges to do better, and confessions that all of this is true?

HOLMES: And just staying with you, Professor, Fox, of course, claims, in their words, the network was merely reporting on newsworthy events and

Dominion's lawsuit is an unprecedented assault on the first amendment. What would it mean for press freedom if Fox wins or loses? Could a loss for Fox

impact other media organizations?

ROSEN: If Fox loses, one thing it says is there are limits to propaganda, to lying on television, to fooling, misinforming your viewers. There are

limits. If Fox wins, it kind of says the opposite. There's no limits. You can make stuff up. And this is one of the other reasons this case is being

closely watched because of the implications of either a loss or a victory by Dominion.

HOLMES: And turning to you, Sarah Longwell, the speculation is that Speaker McCarthy gave Tucker Carlson the January 6th videos, all of them,

as part of deals done with the right wing of his party in order to get their support for his speakership.


Do you see it that way? And what risks has he taken with his own reputation, particularly among more moderate Republicans?


that, but one thing I am certain of is that the closer relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party is without parallel. I mean, one of the

things that we have seen as these text messages have come out, is the way that Fox News prime time hosts regularly were texting, you know, with the

chief of staff during January 6th.

I mean, Fox News is operating, essentially, as a propaganda arm for the Republican party. We do know that Kevin McCarthy gave Tucker Carlson those

tapes exclusively, and that Tucker Carlson is a bad faith actor who has been lying about January 6th. And so, part of what we -- you know, can be

pretty certain they're doing is trying to muddy the waters around what happened during January 6th. They want to create an alternate narrative

that benefits Republicans, and Tucker Carlson is more than happy to be the person that carries those messages.

And so -- and you know, it's interesting, this question of accountability, the accountability is going to have to come from Dominion because it is not

going to come from the Fox News audience. It is not going to come from Republican politicians. There is a massive vested interest in a big group

of people in Fox News not having to face any consequences. And so, it really is going to take that legal mechanism for something to change

because the relationship between the Republicans and Fox News is so cozy and is so mutually self-serving that nobody wants it to stop.

HOLMES: And to that point, Sarah, I mean, the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, he criticized Carlson's selective editing of the video. He

cited a statement from the chief of the Capitol Police. Let's have a listen to that.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER: Clearly, the chief of the Capitol Police, in my view, correctly describes what most of

us witnessed firsthand on January 6th. So, that's my reaction to it. It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that completely

at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks.


HOLMES: So, Sarah, you're -- you've got the Senate Republican leader there criticizing the House Republican Leader, Kevin McCarthy, who, of course,

gave Carlson the tapes. Mitt Romney has criticized the move, even Lindsey Graham, others as well. So, given that cozy relationship with Fox that you

speak about, how is this playing out within the Republican Party? Are there fissures developing.

LONGWELL: Well, I think one of Tucker Carlson's miscalculations by trying to dramatically downplay what happened on January 6th, was the fact that

all of those Republican officials were in the building being attacked. You know, Mitch McConnell and his colleagues were attacked that day. They saw

it with their own eyes.

And this is one of the strangest things about what Tucker Carlson is doing is, he's trying to create a narrative that forces us to deny what we've

seen with our own eyes and ears. And for those Republicans who were in the building that day, they were afraid for their lives. And so, I think it

takes a lot to get any Republican official to be willing to be critical of Fox News. But it does seem like Tucker Carlson trying to say, that the

mortal peril that they faced on that day was insignificant and not real was enough to at least have them speak out and say, that that was wrong.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. Professor Rosen, let's go, back to you. When it comes to those of those thousands of thousands of hours of video Kevin McCarthy gave

to Tucker Carlson, who then, as we said, selectively edited, cherry-picked January 6th footage to present that false narrative, here's how he

introduced his version of that footage earlier this week.


CARLSON: With that, here's the video. It doesn't answer every question from January 6th, far from it. But it does prove, beyond doubt, that

Democrats in Congress, assisted by Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, lied about what happened that day. They are liars. That is conclusive. And that

fact should prevent them from ever being taken seriously again.


HOLMES: And so, professor -- I mean, lie is a truth and truth is a lie, it seems. I mean, you've spoken of Fox's strategy of, I think you called it,

manipulated rage. How can Fox viewers figure out which way is up? Do they care whether Carlson tells the truth or not?


ROSEN: I think this is one of the most extraordinary things about this episode is that Fox is, in a way, pursuing truth from the demand side

rather than from the supply side. Meaning, there is a demand among core Fox viewers and core Trump builders for the events of January 6th to be

harmless. There is a demand for the events of January 6th to be carried out by the left for it to be a kind of picnic.

And what Fox and Tucker Carlson is doing here is they're catering for a demand for history to be different than it actually is. And this not only

contradicts the experience of the politicians in the Capitol but it tells the viewers at home to kind of deny the evidence of their own eyes and

ears. And that is hubris, it's a long stretch, but it's serving this kind of demand for things to be true that aren't. And that is of great

consequence going forward, no matter what happens with the lawsuit we've been discussing.

HOLMES: And I think, frankly, people would think that it's dangerous as well.

Sarah Longwell, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch, he just described all of this as, in his words, noise. But, you know, you had Chairman Rupert Murdoch

repeatedly saying, in his deposition, that he did not believe the conspiracy theories. That his hosts went too far in spreading those

conspiracy theories.

But, you know, in the case of Carlson, those theories, the lies continue to get oxygen from him. Why do you think Murdoch, if he thinks such things are

nonsense, allows Carlson to push the lies?

LONGWELL: Well, it's 100 percent his competitive pressures that are building up against Fox News. You know, if Fox News does not give the

audience what it wants, there is a whole right-wing media ecosystem now Newsmax, OANN, "Steve Bannon's War Room", podcast, radio shows that is

willing to give these voters what they want. And so, just from a competitive business practice, that's why they feel like they need to do


But I also want to say something. You know, I conduct regular focus groups with Republican voters I talked to. Every week I listen to Republican

voters. And what's really important to understand, is this stuff isn't just happening in a vacuum. People believe this. I mean, 70 percent of the

Republican Party believed that the 2020 election was stolen, because news organizations like Fox News, told them.

And they had an obligation -- and all of their hosts knew they were lying, I mean, that's what comes through in these text messages. The hosts didn't

believe it. They didn't believe the voting machines were switching things. And yet, their hosts would talk about it, they would have Sydney Powell or

Rudy Giuliani to come on and spew lies. And those had real consequences of voters believing those lies.

And that is part of the reason people went to the Capitol that day, is because they believed the lie that the election was stolen and they were

looking to overturn the results, because they think and thought that it had been stolen from them. And so, the damage being done here, to people

believing the lies is very real. And it is -- I have a deep hope that Dominion, by pursuing this legally, could seek some accountability and some

change because it is having an enormously damaging impact on our politics.

HOLMES: Yes. Professor, I wanted to ask you this, too. After the 2020 election, then Fox News DC Managing Editor Bill Sammon, he messaged a

colleague to say, Fox's coverage of false election claims had become, in his words, an existential crisis for the network. He even said, it's

remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things. Has all of this exposed the fragility of reliable reporting?

ROSEN: I think it has exposed the fragility of Fox News and the Republican Party in a sense that both of them depend on a core viewership that isn't

ready to accept what the rest of the world knows. And they can't stop people from demanding that history be different than it is. And this

threatens to undermine the entire business behind Fox News, just as it threatens the desire of the Republican party to move on from January 6th in

the events of the 2020 election.

They can't, because this core group of voters and viewers, won't allow them to do that.


So, this group of people that kind of wants to live in an alternative history and it can't but it wants to, is got the fate of both the party and

Fox News in its hands.

HOLMES: And the trial hasn't even begun yet, so we've got a lot more that will unfold over the months ahead, I'm sure. Professor Jay Rosen, also

Sarah Longwell, I really appreciate you both and your analysis here. Thanks so much.

All right. Next, we turn to a voice who is pushing for change in her home of Puerto Rico and beyond. Grammy award winning a singer iLe's music is

becoming an anthem for mass protests that did so on the island back in 2019. She's now released her third album, "Nacarile".




HOLMES: And it tackles everything from colonialism to feminism with reflections on love in between. The music video for her feminist track,

"Algo Bonito", with reggaeton artist, Ivy Queen, premiered just last week. iLe is currently touring the U.S. and I'm delighted to say, she joins me

live from Los Angeles.

Thank you so much for doing so. "Nacarile" is your third solo album, three years in the making. "Nacarile," I think, can be translated as no way or

not at all. Can you explain what you are trying to do with the album and the spirit of it?

ILE, SINGER: Well, it was difficult for me to concentrate making this album, and I didn't understand why. Obviously, afterwards, is where I

understood that we were living in a chaotic moment during the pandemic and that was very difficult for all of us. So, for me as well. And I was

expecting everything to be as normal in the creative process but I felt better when I acknowledge that I wasn't going to feel normal and I had to

deal with that and play around with it.

So, I think I felt better at the same time, when I tried to confront a little of my own uncomfortableness during the process and trying to find my

way to transcend it. So, "Nacarile" is an expression that we use in Puerto Rico when we want to say no with a lot of attitude, and with a lot of

determination. So, for me, it felt like a motivational no in between these troublesome moments during making the album.

HOLMES: Apart from the message, it's fantastic music. I was in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma and ahead of Hurricane Maria. I saw the damage done by

both of those, in particular Maria, which was -- it was staggering throughout the entire region.

As we said after the 2019 protests against, you know, the whole series of things, the botched rebuilding, misgovernance, corruption, and so on. You

wrote and saying about that and had a huge impact. Speak then to the power of song when it comes to injustice and the rights of people?

ILE: Well, I think it's -- it's definitely our, how we say in Spanish, (speaking in a foreign language), our kind of release, especially in Puerto

Rico and the Caribbean. I feel that we use music and dancing as a way of releasing and healing everything that is going on in the country. And that

comes from our Afro-Caribbean roots.

So, we still have a way to connect through that musicality. And sometimes it becomes informal, sometimes, we chant classical chanting's, but it's

nice when we connect like the present with our culture. So, it's -- it is something that we feel that we need to, and it makes us feel more together

and it definitely gives a lot of power to the message that we're going to send.

HOLMES: Yes, we mentioned the official video of -- for "Algo Bonito" with Ivy Queen. It celebrates women's history month. It is a feminist song. It

flips the phrase, tell me something good, into a demand for action. Let's watch a clip of that.





HOLMES: It's terrific stuff. But, you know, apart from that phrase, tell me something good, there are lyrics that you write like, when I spit, it's

like fire and acid. What was the message in the song from a feminist perspective?

ILE: Well, it started out as a very combative song and I feel that it comes from a frustration. I feel that every time we try to send a message

and protest and go out of the streets because there -- we still are not receiving the rights that correspond to us and we are still fighting so

many things that we shouldn't be fighting but we need to. I feel that we always receive that -- a lot of critics and a lot of this devaluation and

humiliation in our message.

And that's when you realize, you know, that the problem that we're going through as women, in this world, is urgent and we need to take care of it.

And I feel that violence is so silent and so normalized that we don't even realize that it is an urgent problem because we're so accustomed to it, but

we shouldn't be.

And for me, this song comes from that anger and that courage that I feel that we need to have, even though we feel that we are not being well

received, you know, we are being humiliated from that message, I feel that we still need to keep going and we still need to work it out as a society.

And that's why I feel that education with a perspective can help us may be to try to figure out better ways to understand each other more and respect

each other more.

HOLMES: Yes. And it's something you've sung about for a long time. I wanted to ask you this, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, of course, it's

neither state nor country. How much did hurricanes like Maria, Fiona as well, expose when it comes to Puerto Rico's lack of representation in

Washington? And what do you think needs to happen with Puerto Rico's status?

ILE: Well, I am -- I want Puerto Rico to be an independent country. I know, as any change is going to be a tough transition, but I think we can

make it work, somehow. I do believe in what we can do as a country, even though we have always been more accustomed to listen to that, we can't,

that we're not worthy, that we're lazy. But I don't believe in any of those things.

So, I feel that we are living in a crisis in Puerto Rico. We are now worse than the hurricanes that we have been through, I think it has been the

mismanagement of, not only Puerto Rico's government, but also the United States government. And it's sad to see that. But we are living in a

situation where -- and it's happening worldwide, like people don't have places to live. They have to wonder where they're going to live. They

cannot live in their own country, because it's not affordable.

So, Puerto Rico being an island, that is so small, like, where do we go? We have -- we are like surrounded by water. So, it's not fair that -- from a

crisis -- from a vulnerable situation, a lot of wealthy people are taking advantage from that and living on the island because they are not paying


And for me, it's sad that the government of Puerto Rico are not taking care of that at all. They are not taking any measures from that, and the Puerto

Rican people are struggling a lot. And it's -- and I think we could do something more about it. I think we could be more in the streets. I think

there could be a big revolution from this because it's a very critical and tough situation that we are going through.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. So, three critically acclaimed albums, encouraging political, social change, promoting feminism. What's next for you, iLe, and

are you hopeful for Puerto Rico, its people and its future?

ILE: I am always hopeful. I do believe a lot in our country. And you could see it, especially after Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Fiona, a lot of

agriculture got lost and it was a disaster. And you could see how people in farms are making it. Go back again together. We are really -- as Puerto

Ricans, we are really doing a lot and that makes me, you know, proud and totally hopeful about everything that we can do.

We just need to trust in each other a lot more and we need to be -- more people trusting more in Puerto Ricans rather than the government that has

been corrupt and has lied to us for a lot of years, and we are tired of it. So, I feel that we need to show our true selves a lot more, and I feel

hopeful always. I mean, it's what's keeps me going. And I try to manage that through the songs that I work on and it heals me. And I think that's

what we need to do, try to find ways to feel free and heal more.


HOLMES: That's a great outlook. Wait. We're almost out of time. But I did want to touch on this, because you've spoken about being, you know, end

this sort on a more personal note. You've spoken about, I think you called yourself, the little one in your household growing up. You had success in a

band with your brothers. How did your own upbringing shape you and eventually your music?

ILE: Well, I feel very grateful. I think it was very unexpected for us as a family, even though we're all artists, it was surprising for us to have a

great time like with my brothers. Traveling and suddenly, like (INAUDIBLE) became like a big thing. So, it was a great school for me. I learned a lot

and I feel super grateful that I had the opportunity, not only to travel the world and learn different cultures and different people, you know, but

also traveling with my family was a lot of fun. And I always feel grateful for that.

HOLMES: Grammy award-winning singer, iLe, a real pleasure to chat with you. Thanks so much for making the time.

ILE: You too, thank you. Have a good day.

HOLMES: You too.

All right. Turning now to China where Xi Jinping has now formally secured a record-breaking third term as president. That makes him the longest serving

head of state of Communist China since it was founded in 1949.

The origin of the coronavirus pandemic is among a host of issues driving a wedge in between China and the West. This week, U.S. government insider,

Jamie Metzl, warned lawmakers on Capitol Hill not to dismiss the idea that the virus leaked from a Chinese lab. Metzl speaks with Hari Sreenivasan now

about what could have sparked the pandemic.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Michael, thanks. Jamie Metzl, thank so much for joining us. Just earlier this week, you testified

in front of the House Select Committee on the origins of the coronavirus. Why is it so important to get to the bottom of that question?

JAMIE METZL, GEOPOLITICAL ANALYST AND ATLANTIC COUNCIL SENIOR FELLOW: Thanks so much, Hari. It's three years after the start of this terrible,

deadly pandemic, 20 million people are dead. And understanding what went wrong must be the foundation of our efforts to shore up our vulnerabilities

and make sure this never happens again. We're entering a new era of synthetic biology where we can imagine pandemics much deadlier than COVID-

19. And if we don't fearlessly understand what went wrong and fix our biggest problems, future generations or even ourselves a few years from now

are going to be saying, why didn't you do the hard work now when you could have?

SREENIVASAN: You know, one of the quotes that you had in your testimony said, there is no smoking gun proving a lab origin hypothesis, but the

growing body of circumstantial evidence suggests a gun that, at the very least, is warm to the touch.

What leads you to that conclusion?

METZL: It's really a growing body of circumstantial evidence. I, as you know, had those suspicions earliest on. But right now, the pandemic, it

started in Wuhan. We know that the ancestral origin is a virus, that was living in horseshoe bats, these kinds of horseshoe bats aren't in Wuhan.

It's more than 1,000 miles away from their natural range.

What you do have in Wuhan is China's first level four virology lab with the world's largest collection of coronaviruses that was doing highly

aggressive experiments inserting what are called fear in cleavage sites. Basically, the cellular machinery allowing viruses to infect humans in

SARS-like viruses. And lo and behold, we have the only known SARS-like virus ever that has this human specific fear in cleavage site that doesn't

show up in Southern China where you think something like this might if it evolved naturally.

But in Wuhan, of all the places in the world, I just think the overwhelming circumstantial evidence weighs in favor of a possible research-related

origin. But we need a full investigation. And if there is additional information that convinces me otherwise, I'll happily change my view.

SREENIVASAN: So, right now, that theory is then bolstered by yet another U.S. agency. The Energy Administration came out and said that they had,

with low confidence, an idea that this is what might have happened. Now, what's strange, I think, for Americans, is why there are so many different

agencies that have such different views on this. I mean, the degree of confidence or, you know, should I believe the FBI, should I believe the

Department of Energy, should I believe the NIH, or the CDC? Some of those agencies say that this is zoonotic or that it came from an animal to humans

and it wasn't maybe from the lab.


METZL: Yes. So, a few really critical points there. First, it's highly significant that the U.S. Department of Energy shifted its view, overtime,

from thinking what probably comes from nature to it probably comes from the lab. Most people think that the Department of Energy is kind of like the

electric company. But the Department of Energy oversees the 17 U.S. national laboratories, it's one of the largest employers of scientists in

the world, including some of the most significant scientists, including biologist in the world. So, that's very significant.

The United States has many different intelligence agencies, and we want them all to be digging. There's a little bit of an overhang of the

intelligence failures preceding the Iraq War that have instilled a level of caution in many of our intelligence agencies. But the basic fact of the

matter is that China has done everything possible to prevent the kind of full investigation that's required, they've destroyed samples, hidden

records, imprisoned Chinese journalist for asking the most basic questions. They have a gag order on Chinese scientists. They've prevented

international investigations.

So, we're trying to piece together a story while China is aggressively trying to cover up that story. In my mind, that's a piece of evidence

itself. We don't want -- as we experienced in Iraq, we don't want our intelligence agencies jumping to conclusions, prematurely. But what we do

want is them to be digging aggressively as we move to try to get the right answer.

SREENIVASAN: Let's talk a little bit about the time and place of when this theory gained traction. I mean, you were one of the first people to talk

about this as a possibility. But really, two and a half years ago or so, when that thought and idea came into the public sphere it was outright

rejected by some scientists, but it was also looked at through a very political lens. What kind of damage did we do to ourselves?

METZL: So, you're absolutely right. When I started making this case, I really started looking in late January of 2020 while on January 24, 2020

there was a very important paper in the British journal, "The Lancet," which showed more than a third of the earliest cases of COVID-19 were

people who had no exposure to the seafood market in Wuhan. And then, in early 2020, I started making this case.

But in the early days, in February and then March in 2020, there were these high-profile letters, one in "The Lancet" and then, another in "Nature

Medicine" calling people like me who are raising really essential, just common-sense questions about endemic origins, conspiracy theorists, for not

falling into line for this unproven hypothesis that it came from nature or from a market. And it was really just very discouraging at that time.

And so, there was just a small handful of us, and we just didn't want to be bullied into silence or submission. So, we worked extremely hard. And I --

over the course of that year, I reached out to so many science editors and journalists and government officials around the world, saying, hey, you're

missing the story. Here's the evidence that I'm compiling.

And it was really in early 2021, when that story started to break our community, which others have called the Paris Group, we issued open letters

that were featured in pretty much every major newspaper around the world. There started to be more of an open conversation, and I think the world has

started to shift to the point of yesterday, in these hearings, where there was complete consensus among the congressional representatives, everybody

agreed that a lab origin was a very credible hypothesis.

So, that -- now, that issue is almost won, that it's a credible hypothesis. But we still need a comprehensive investigation with as much access as

possible, full access to all the relevant data.

SREENIVASAN: So, how much of this was perhaps because of one of the messengers or proponents of the idea being former President Donald Trump?

You know, because he had coded his words and phrases about this virus in language that so many people found detestable and racist, you know, and

that this -- also, this theory that it came from the lab, started to attribute something that was unpalatable to political opponents?


METZL: Yes. So, I'm a progressive Democrat. I was a fierce critic of President Trump. I was completely unhappy and vocally so with a lot of what

President Trump did and said, and I completely distrusted his motives. But as a thinking person, I didn't think the appropriate response to that was

to feel, well, if Trump says something, then I need to say and believe the opposite.

And so, for me, when I started looking at this, I was seeing a story that just coincidentally was connected to what -- I mean, in the earliest days

until March of 2020, Donald Trump was effusive in his praise of Xi Jinping. And when things started to go south, that was when the story changed. So,

obviously, I didn't trust those motives. But my view was, well, let's just try to get to the right answer regardless of the politics. But I know that

friends of mine reached out to me and said, what are you doing? Your narrative is supporting Donald Trump? And I kept saying, this isn't about

Trump or anybody else, millions of people are dying, this is about getting to the right answer.

But I do think that also, the mainstream media got into this habit that I think became a little bit lazy. Well, Trump says something, and then, we

have a fact check story which says, here's what Trump said and here's why it's lying, and we're going to add this to the list that "The Washington

Post" and others were keeping up whatever tens of thousands of outright lies.

But even a broken clock is right twice a day, in my view, in his totally inappropriate and probably even at that time uninformed way President Trump

said something that just happened to be possibly true, and he said it in a terrible way. And that's why, I think, this tribalism of how we think, how

we process information, how we presented formation is really dangerous because if we all just become mirror images of the opposition, we are in

danger and our democracy is in danger.

SREENIVASAN: You also testified next to Dr. Redfield who ran the CDC under the Trump administration. I mean, how have you found this kind of


METZL: There's -- it's a situation in many ways of strange bed fellows. But I think people of all political persuasions who are dedicated to

finding the right answer are kind of on the same side. There's no doubt that there is a lot of politics associated with this issue. But over the

course of the last three years, I've collaborative with people on the left, people on the right, with the Democrats, with Republicans.

One of my closest interlocutors is United States Senator Roger Marshall from Kansas. Senator Marshall and I disagree on a whole lot of topics. But

on the issue of should we or should we not dig to find out how COVID-19 began, we are surprisingly and very much on the same page, not to mention

that we are both Kansas City Chiefs fans.

SREENIVASAN: Do you think that a commission like this is going to be able to get to that core question about origins without the cooperation of


METZL: I don't know the answer to that question. I certainly know that if we don't investigate, we'll likely not get the answer. If we do fully

investigate, we may get the answer. And in addition, we will establish the principle that it's just not OK to have, in many ways, a political pandemic

and then, just prevent an investigation.

And the reason why I call this a political pandemic because for those of us who think a research related origin is more likely and even for the people

who believe that a market origin is more likely, there is no doubt that the suppression and the aggressive suppression of information, particularly in

the early days by the Chinese government, is what allowed a stove fire to become a kitchen fire, to become a raging global inferno.

SREENIVASAN: Regardless of where the investigation goes in the context of this specific pandemic, there is no question that researchers in China

contribute to the global community of science, whether it is about virology, about agriculture, about physics, et cetera. And you mention

that, you know, we still need to have those relationships, we can't -- the price of that can be silence. Explain.

METZL: Yes. So, I exactly as you said and as I said in my congressional testimony, scientific collaborations with amazing scientists in China and

around the world are absolutely essential. When somebody gets a world-class treatment for a terrible disease like cancer or so many other things, we

are benefiting from science everywhere. And we really need to continue to treasure those relationships and invest in them and build them.


But let's just say hypothetically that collaboration with and small-scale funding of Chinese scientists may have contributed in some way to this

terribly deadly pandemic. We can't let the answer be, we should just shut down scientific collaboration. We need scientifically collaboration. We

just need stronger and better safeguards to make sure that that collaboration and science itself is as safe as possible.

SREENIVASAN: You know, in January, there was an expert panel with the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and they voted to try to

create stricter rules for virus research. And I'm wondering whether, regardless of the outcome of this investigation, is there some way that the

planet of scientists and people who do this type of research can agree on figuring out safety measures to prevent something like this from happening

again? I mean, this -- in a way, this was a relatively tamed virus compared to what could have been released.

METZL: Yes. So, there is no doubt that our world needs stronger biosafety and biosecurity systems, structures and norms. There is no doubt that we

need stronger treaties and that we need to come together to do those things. But there is a reason why we investigate -- fully investigate plane

crashes. It actually matters how a specific plane crashed in our prioritization of our responses.

And furthermore, if we don't establish the principle of transparency and accountability today, there's really no way we are going to establish that

principle for tomorrow. And right now, the situation that we're in is everybody around the world is totally dependent on the norms and cultures

and regulators in some country. Pick Kyrgyzstan or any country, and that's just crazy. We live in an interconnected global world but we need to have

systems and structures and norms that protect everybody everywhere.

SREENIVASAN: So, what we do next? I mean, how do we prevent the next one and not just prevent the pandemic, but prevent this same type of thinking

from allowing us to get to the bottom of whatever happens?

METZL: Well, exactly as you said, COVID-19 was a terrible crisis, but it was also a warning that something worse could happen. It could be just

around the corner. And that's why we need to fearlessly follow the evidence and understand what went wrong, not just the origins in question, but what

went wrong across the board. And then, we need to work to aggressively lay a foundation for next steps. That's why I've called for a U.S. national

COVID-19 commission. But this isn't and can't be just a U.S. issue, this is a global issue.

We have -- the World Health Organization is an incredible organization, but it has a tiny budget, a very weak mandate and all -- other kinds of

problems. We need a stronger W.H.O. We need an international plan. But as I said earlier, it cannot be that we just say, oh, we are going to move on

from COVID-19. We are not because it's politically so sensitive and difficult, we're not going to ask most basic questions about how this

crisis happened. That's like flying planes after a crash without trying to figure out what went wrong and whether other planes have the same


SREENIVASAN: Jamie Metzl, thanks so much for joining us.

METZL: My pleasure.


HOLMES: And finally, art from prison walls. As we mentioned earlier, it is from Evin Prison in Iran where American citizen Siamak Namazi spoke to us

in an exclusive interview. In honor of International Women's Day this week, an exhibit named from Evin with Love has opened at the Hague (ph),

showcasing artwork by female political prisoners held there. It includes scarves, embroidered tablecloths and even dolls made by renowned activist

Nazarene Soltade (ph) of young girls waving their hijabs in resistance. Another example of courage from the women of Iran.

That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching. I'm Michael Holmes. It's is

goodbye from Atlanta.